Snorkeling in Los Angeles? Yes!

By Andy Cracchiolo

When people visit Los Angeles they often want to see our beaches, but may not know there is a lot of sea life right off of Pacific Coast Highway. I’ve been snorkeling in Los Angeles and underwater photographing my favorite surf spot, Topanga State Beach, which is right before Malibu, for several years, about 50-60 times a year.

Horn Shark spotted while snorkeling in Los Angeles, Topanga State Beach
Horn Shark

When conditions are good (sunny, small surf, mild tide swing) it’s possible to see many varieties of sea life, from most common to least common- Kelp Bass, Opaleye, Sargo, Surf Perch, Garibaldi, Lobster, Sheep Crab, Octopus, Horn and Leopard Sharks, Bat Rays, (I recently spotted a rare California Butterfly Ray), Halibut, Cabezon, and plenty more.

Rare California Butterfly Ray spotted while snorkeling Topanga State Beach
California Butterfly Ray
Entry for snorkeling Topanga State Beach

There is usually a bit of swell running, and entry at the point is very rocky (see image above), so beginner snorkelers should probably try a sport I created called snorkel-boarding. I body-board (“boogie-board”) and on small days or when the water is very clear I will put on my mask and snorkel and hang my head over the front of the board in between waves. I’ve found lots of things this way, like watches, surf fins and, of course, lots of plastic trash.

Octopus spotted while snorkeling Topanga State Beach

There is plenty of free parking along the highway (as well as tow pay parking lots) and there are restrooms and showers.

My friend Lou has a YouTube series called Surf Chats and she recently interviewed me about what I see out there. Here’s the link.


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